What I Learned from a Near-Death Experience By Marshall Goldsmith...
an EVP for Human Resources, who was dealing with the integration of people and systems after her company made a large acquisition. “Don, our CEO, has been hearing some serious grumbling about Bill, our Chief Information Officer,” she groaned. “Bill is 56 years old and has great experience. No one else in the company can match it. Unfortunately, he wants everything to be done ‘his way.’ There are some brilliant people in the company we acquired who have their own ideas. Several of their top people, including our new COO, are expressing concerns about Bill. Don wants this issue resolved now! He has suggested that we get an executive coach to work with Bill. Given Bill’s busy schedule and our immediate needs, Don would like to see a dramatic change in Bill within a couple of months. Because Bill is also very impatient, he won’t work with a coach that will waste his valuable time. Do you think that you can help us? When could you start?”
Like all of the folks that buy these “miracle” products to help them get in shape, Mary wanted a “miracle” coach to change Bill — immediately!
I pointed out that Bill was a 56-year-old executive. Just as with diet and exercise, Bill’s behavioral habits took years to develop and won’t go away overnight. We all set goals to get some aspect of our lives in shape. All too often, they don’t come to fruition. Why? Four of the major challenges to goal achievement are:
1. Time: This is taking a lot longer than I thought it would. I don’t have time for this.
2. Effort: This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’m tired. It’s just not worth it.
3. Competing goals: I had no idea I would be so busy this year. I’ll just have to worry about this later.
4. Maintenance: After I got in shape, I celebrated by indulging in some of the actions that forced me to set my goals in the first place. Now, for some unexplained reason, I’m back where I started. What am I supposed to do? Go on some kind of “diet” for the rest of my life?
We often confuse the words simple and easy. The changes I help people make are generally very simple. However, they are never easy. Just as with diet and exercise, changing behavior involves hard work. It takes time.
During the next year, Bill would be barraged with competing goals that would distract him from his efforts to change. He needed to realize that lasting leadership development is a lifelong process. A temporary change in behavior to “look good” in the short term would only create cynicism if Bill didn’t stick with it. If Bill were interested in investing time, working hard, making this change a high-priority goal and continuing his changed behavior throughout his career, then I could definitely help him. If not, hiring me would probably be a waste of everyone’s time.
Look in the mirror. Not just at how you look but who you are. If you want to be a better leader, a better professional or just a better person—don’t kid yourself—to achieve meaningful goals you’ll have to pay the price. There’s no product, no diet, no exercise program and (I hate to admit it) no executive coach that can make you better. Only you can make you better. If your source motivation doesn’t come from inside, you won’t stick with it and you won’t get the job done.
This is may not be great advice for a Saturday morning TV ad (could you imagine?), but it is great advice for any real achievement!